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Tilly Kettle

  • Tilly Kettle - Portrait of William Eden, 1st Baron Auckland
    Tilly Kettle Portrait of William Eden, 1st Baron Auckland Signed
    Oil on canvas
    30 x 25 in
    76.2 x 63.5 cm
    Full details

    BC 227



    London 1734/5 - 1786 near Aleppo


    Portrait of William Eden, 1st Baron Auckland (1745-1814), wearing an Oxford gentleman-commoner’s gown


    Signed lower left: T. Kettle/Pinxit

    Oil on canvas: 30 x 25 in / 76.1 x 63.5 cm

    Frame size: 37 x 31 7/8 in / 94 x 81 cm

    In a period running pattern carved and gilded frame


    Painted circa 1763-4



    Lord Auckland (1745-1814)

    Francis Seymour, 5th Marquess of Hertford (1812-1884)

    Mrs Stevenson Scott, New York, by 1927

    Mortimer Brandt, New York

    Acquired by Mr and Mrs EM Ayers in 1940 for the Art Institute of Zanesville, OH (now the Zanesville Art Center)



    James D Milner, ‘Tilly Kettle, 1735-1786’, The Walpole Society, vol. XV, 1926-7, pp.58-9, 84 and pl.XIXa

    Art Institute Fifth Anniversary of the Opening Catalogue, Zanesville, OH 1940, under ‘Recent additions to the permanent collection’, no.8

    Art Institute Zanesville, OH, Catalogue 1942, Zanesville 1942, pp.8, 10, cat. no.5


    Born in London, Tilly Kettle met Joshua Reynolds in the early 1750s and was influenced by his fresh and sophisticated style. From 1762-4 he worked in Oxford and the Midlands, gaining commissions through his patron and lifelong friend Richard Kaye (1736-1809), later sixth Baronet and Dean of Lincoln, who was appointed Chaplain to William, 3rd Duke of Portland in 1762. This portrayal of William Eden is a superb example of Kettle’s Oxford portraits. As James Milner comments, it ‘breathes simplicity, dignity, and refinement, qualities which raise Kettle’s standard completely out of the ranks of mere Reynolds imitators into an independent and quite masterly sphere’ (op. cit., p.59).


    Kettle paints William Eden as a Christ Church undergraduate, wearing the intricate, braided gown of a gentleman-commoner, to which he was entitled as the son of a Baronet. Eden’s demeanour is one of elegant restraint, as befitted a young man of breeding who was already a serious scholar. His face is painted with greet sensitivity, while care is lavished on the textures of his sober but expensive clothes: the lawn bands, ruffles, the velvet collar of his coat and the complex play of light and dark on the gown. Particularly beautiful is the passage which describes Eden’s left hand emerging from the shadows beneath its ruffled cuff, holding his college cap.


    William Eden was the third son of Sir Robert Eden, 3rd Bt. (d.1755) of Windlestone Hall, West Auckland, Co. Durham, and his wife Mary (d.1794), daughter of William Davison of Beamish, Co. Durham. He was educated at Durham School and Eton before going up to Christ Church in 1762. He gained his BA in 1765 and was admitted to the Middle Temple, being called to the Bar in 1768.


    Eden practised law on the northern circuit but was far more interested in the philosophy of jurisprudence. In 1771 he published the most significant tract of his legal career, The Principles of Penal Law, which argued that legal penalties should try to reform criminals rather than merely punish them, and which advocated the reduction of the number of capital offences, singling out the notoriously harsh game laws. The Principles brought Eden to the attention of Lord Suffolk, Secretary of State for the Northern Department, whose Under-Secretary he was appointed in 1772. Thus began Eden’s career as a highly able administrator. He was MP for New Woodstock from 1774 and in 1776 pushed through the Hulks Bill, which improved the terrible housing of convicts in hulks on the Thames and gave them employment, such as clearing the river.


    The same year Eden gained a promotion to the Board of Trade and married Eleanor Elliot (1758-1818), daughter of the politician Sir Gilbert Elliot, 3rd Bt. (1722-1777). In 1778 he was appointed to the five-man commission for conciliation with America, led by his Oxford friend, the 5th Earl of Carlisle. When Carlisle was sent to Ireland as Lord Lieutenant in 1780, Eden accompanied him as Chief Secretary. In Ireland he became expert in commercial matters and was involved in the foundation of the Bank of Ireland.


    In 1785 Eden was sent by William Pitt, Prime Minister at the tender age of twenty-four, to negotiate a commercial treaty with France consequent upon the end of the American War of Independence. Eden succeeded triumphantly, but was less successful in tricky commercial negotiations with Spain while he was Ambassador in Madrid 1788-89. He was raised to the Irish peerage as Baron Auckland in 1789 and served from 1789-93 as Ambassador in The Hague, steering cannily through the turbulent years before the outbreak of the French Revolutionary Wars. Eden retired from the diplomatic service in 1793 and was raised to the British peerage as Baron Auckland of West Auckland.


    Lord Auckland remained an ally of Pitt, who in 1796 wooed and very nearly married his daughter Eleanor, the only serious romantic relationship recorded in Pitt’s life. In 1798 Pitt appointed Auckland joint Postmaster-General and he was one of Pitt’s closest advisors on the possibility of union with Ireland in the years 1798-1800. In 1801, however, Auckland broke with Pitt over his plans to accompany the Act of Union with a degree of Catholic emancipation; his opposition influenced George III and Pitt was forced to resign. Auckland remained in office under Pitt’s successor, Henry Addington, but was dismissed when Pitt returned to power in 1804. After Pitt’s death, Auckland was President of the Board of Trade in the Ministry of All the Talents in 1806-7. He died at his home, Eden Farm, Beckenham, on 28th May 1814.


    Auckland had twelve children with his wife Eleanor. His eldest son, William, mysteriously drowned in 1810 and the Barony of Auckland was inherited by his son George Eden (1784-1849), who was First Lord of the Admiralty 1834-5 and 1846-9 and Governor-General of India 1835-42. He was a patron of Captain William Hobson, British Consul to New Zealand, who in 1840 named the new settlement of Auckland in his honour. George was made Earl of Auckland in 1838. His highly talented sister, Emily Eden (1797-1870), lived with her brother in India, made drawings of the scenery and people and published vivid accounts of life there, including Up the Country (1866).   



    London 1734/5 - 1786 near Aleppo



    Born in London on 31st January 1735, Tilly Kettle was the son of a coach painter, Henry Kettle.  His father taught him the rudiments of painting and he went on to study at William Shipley’s drawing school in the Strand; he may also have attended the St Martin’s Lane Academy and drawn at the Duke of Richmond’s sculpture gallery. In the early 1750s he was introduced to Joshua Reynolds, who influenced his early work. Kettle specialised in portraiture and conversation pieces, exhibiting his first portrait at the Free Society of Artists in 1761. In 1762 he restored Robert Streater’s allegorical ceiling painting at the Sheldonian Theatre, Oxford; the following year he painted a portrait of Dr Francis Yarborough, Principal of Brasenose College. Both commissions were probably obtained through Kettle’s patron Sir Richard Kaye, Bt., Dean of Lincoln. From 1762-4 he worked in Oxford and the Midlands, painting among other sitters kinsmen of Kaye such as the family of William Legge, 2nd Earl of Dartmouth.


    In 1765 Kettle exhibited three works at the Society of Artists, including a full-length portrait of Mrs Yates as Mandane in the ‘Orphan of China’ (Tate Britain, London). He exhibited at the Society of Artists until 1776, then transferred allegiance to the Royal Academy. In 1768 he showed an ambitious group portrait, An Admiral in his cabin issuing Orders, which depicts Vice-Admiral Sir Samuel Cornish, Captain (later Rear-Admiral Sir) Richard Kempenfelt and Cornish’s secretary Thomas Parry.


    In 1768, probably with the encouragement of Admiral Cornish, Tilly Kettle applied to the East India Company for the right of passage to Bengal to work as an artist. He sailed for the Indian subcontinent on the Nottingham, arriving at Madras on 2nd May 1769, the first professional British artist to make a career in India. Kettle spent two years in Madras, painting nabobs, merchants and Army officers. The pictures he sent home for exhibition included a full-length group portrait of Muhammad Ali Khan, Nawab of Arcot, and his five sons in 1771, a genre scene of dancing girls in 1772 and a scene of suttee in 1776.


    Kettle travelled to Calcutta in late 1771, then to Fyzabad at the invitation of Shuja ud-Daula, Nawab of Oudh, whom he painted several times. Like many of his countrymen, he took an Indian bibi, or mistress; two daughters, Ann and Elizabeth, were born in 1773 and 1774. Kettle lived in Calcutta from 1773-6, painting the élite of the English administration, among them Sir Elijah Impey, first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and Warren Hastings.


    Returning to England in 1776, the following year Kettle married Mary (1753-1798), daughter of the architect James Paine, who was probably attracted by the fortune he had amassed in India. The couple occupied a lavish house in Bond Street, but Kettle could not regain the level of prosperity he had had in India. He relied on a network of existing patrons such as Sir Robert Barker, who commissioned Shah Alam, Mughal Emperor, reviewing the 3rd Brigade of the East India Company’s troops at Allahbad (Victoria Memorial Hall, Calcutta).


    By 1783 Kettle was forced to leave Bond Street; he travelled to Ireland to escape his creditors and in 1786 set out overland for India. By July he had reached Aleppo (then in Turkey, today in Syria) where he painted The Turkish Janissary of the English Factory, Aleppo (private collection). Kettle is thought to have died towards the end of 1786, probably in the desert on the way to Basrah.


    The work of Tilly Kettle is represented in the National Portrait Gallery, London; the Courtauld Institute of Art, London; Tate Britain, London; the Victoria and Albert Museum, London; the Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT and the Victoria Memorial Hall, Calcutta.


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